Over the years of reading opinionated sports articles I have come to the conclusion that the majority of sports writers, either before or after the contest, are looking for the 'I told you so' moment. They seem to lay out a plethora of picks and ideas on how they think something will turn out and when, inevitably, one of them turns up correct, they go running to the top of their metaphorical hill, pens paper and notebook in hand, screaming of their genius. I try (and hope) to stay away from said hill. It would be tough for any of my friends or family members to deny my Sooner fanatic membership, but probably secretly question it seeing me in action launching obscenity laced comments, critical observations, and my sons toys at the television during an OU game. I can't say I blame them, but the fact is I've been working for years on my 'Sooner reverse psychology' theory. Trying to 'Lou Holtz' the team and myself if you will (Sidenote: For those that don't remember when Lou Holtz was coaching, anytime he was interviewed before a game he would downplay his own teams accomplishments and build up the other team to the point where, by the end of the interview, you thought Lou's team was playing the greatest team ever assembled. Great psychology. Great entertainment. Made even greater because 'Sufferin' Succotash' Holtz was delivering it). By the time the contest with Air Force had ended, I felt betrayed by my own theory and begrudgingly trudged my way to be with the rest of the 'hilltoppers'.
First and foremost you have to take your hat off to the Sooner defense and coach Venables. The three week stretch of opponents they had to prepare for must have been frustrating for all involved. I realize 421 total yards were given up to Utah St., and 351 more were given up on the ground to Air Force, but its a safe bet to make that no other team in the country had to prepare for the differences in style Utah St., Florida St., and Air Force brought to the table. However it doesn't absolve everything. What we've gotten in these first games has been par for the course in the Stoops era. First game featured a mobile quarterback and equaled big problems. Second week featured your classic drop back style passer and the D thrived. I'm reluctant to group Air Force into another mobile quarterback that was hard to get a handle on due to the type of offense said quarterback was running but...I will for purposes of making my point stronger. It does take a great deal of concentration by the defense on every play to stop the triple option attack that the Falcons run, but it wasn't exactly like they lined up in the wishbone on every play like the Sooners of old. When they did drop back to pass, or had to scramble around, the majority of the time it resulted in big gains. I'll give the Sooner D a pass on this one simply because in today's college football world it's just weird to see and echo the sentiments of linebacker Travis Lewis when he said 'I never want to see this kind of offense again.' Me either Travis...me either.
The defense can't be held completely accountable for the 17 point favorite Sooners winning by 3. Any coach will tell you that there are three phases to a football game. Offense, defense, and special teams. This was true yesterday, now, and will be in the future. Most of the time it's difficult to gauge just how important it is though. You realize as your watching that it's all working together (or not) but to put a percentage on just how much each is doing for the other is tough. Not against a triple option offense. It's actually pretty simple. Your defense has to play there tails off ,obviously, but your offense becomes part of your defense. A team like Air Force feels the most comfortable grinding out the clock with their running game. They will do it all day long, and can take a quick strike offense like Oklahoma's out of its game sitting on the sidelines for long stretches BUT once you get up to that 14, 21, 28 point lead, they start doing things they don't want to do like...pass. Lucky for Air Force, OU's 'doffense' played gracious host and never made them feel uncomfortable.
Anyone who has read any of my articles is well aware of my *ahem* dislike of Landry Jones. He's at the #1 position of my 'OU quarterbacks I don't like' list and hasn't budged since week one...ok before the season even started you got me. It's doesn't even have anything to do with his physical appearance('stache/no 'stache/who cares) although some did make the list because of that (see Tink Collins, Rhett Bomar). OU has had plenty of those types but stand goofy head and shoulders above Jones because of what's between the ears. Most people were highly critical of him after the Utah St. game coming to generally the same conclusion of just looking uncomfortable. After he only missed on 10 of 40 throws against Florida State, people were quick to jump back in line for another shot of the crimson kool-aid. I even read an article on here about the national media overlooking Jones for Heisman hype. The stats on paper are looking nice. He's hitting on almost 62% of his passes, thrown 7 touchdowns against two interceptions, and almost has 900 yards passing. Looks great but I'm not Mike Lupica, nor is the Sooner nation, we actually watch the games. He missed on 16 throws against the Falcons, and some of them could have easily made the three point win turn into a 24 or 31 point victory. After Air Force came out and tied it at 10, Landry and crew put some nice drives together and stretched the lead to 17 at 27-10. But it was early, way too early. No knockout punches had been thrown and Air Force was content to run their offense. They pulled back to within 10 early in the fourth, and I sat back in my couch saying silent prayers to the football gods that Landry would realize along with the rest of us that this, THIS was where he needed to take over and deliver one of those Josh Heupel drives that got us all spoiled to begin with. It seemed the coaches wanted the same thing. OU went for it in Air Force territory. Broyles had beaten his man, Landry felt the pressure that was a good 3 to 4 yards away and threw it to Broyles about a second too soon. The Falcons took over, scored, and you know the rest. It seems nitpicky to point that out as a main cause, but it was more of a culmination of an entire day. People defending him say he had off days against Utah St., and Air Force but it was what he can really do against Florida State. Here's the point people, LANDRY IS THE SAME IN EVERY GAME HE PLAYS! Next OU game, use the fancy DVR and pause it right before a pass play is about to take place. Take note of the receivers split out. Press play. Watch Jones. First call out which part of the field he's going to throw to, and next (this one might get tricky depending on what number of adult beverages you are at) call out the receiver he is throwing to. I would venture to guess you'll be right 90-95% of the time. He rarely fools you and here's the scary part...he's not fooling the defense either! OU is blessed with a talented group of receivers that could probably bail yours truly out of more than a few misreads or throws, and I said after Florida State (now at the top of my hill declaring my genius) that he got away with it due to the aforementioned receivers and a group of FSU defensive backs that had looks on their faces like they had just seen Kathy Bates naked...they were scared to death. Both in '09 and this year there were points in games where I halfway expected Jones, during the play, to look to the sidelines and say "Coach...HEY COACH! That receiver you said would be open isn't...what do I do?...uh what is this? What is this guy doing from the other team? He's tackling me! He's freakin tackling me! Nobody told me about this!! What's going on??" (Ok that was a little drastic but cut me some slack, it was during the Nebraska game I first thought this, and was the least derogatory statement made at Jones that night). I'm not trying to say that Landry should have had another 30/40 performance, far from it, and in fact it could be argued that the Air Force D is the best OU has faced thus far (possibly the best team so far). It just seemed, once again, that the intangibles that all of the quarterbacks Bob Stoops has had at one point or another in their career, isn't there for Jones. It seems he is playing on pure athletic ability, and through a year of being rushed into the fire, an off season of being without a doubt the man, and three games into this year, he's not any closer to it.
The fact isn't lost on me that Oklahoma is indeed 3-0 and deserving of their top ten ranking. I just feel like, overall, this is the same team from last year that's had a chance to play together for a year and the work is paying off, but I'm haunted by the 4 losses by a combined 12 points in '09. OU has survived two of those scares in the first three weeks which is an obvious improvement that they've learned how to win those games. But for a team talented enough to win a national championship, you want to jump on those opportunities to win games by 24+ points when it's available (and it definitely was against Air Force) and not gut check 3 point wins when its unnecessary.
The other question that we have been waiting on to be answered are the Sooners on the road. Cinci doesn't look as daunting as it did on the schedule before the season started, but this group of Sooners hasn't had a good game on the road yet. The Bearcats are 1-2 and didn't look very good against Fresno St. or NC State, but make no mistake, this game vs OU has been circled on the calendar since it was released. It should be interesting, and the thing about it that brings optimism is it will have the Sooners full attention which normally is a good thing. Looking around the country, with really no clear cut favorite, it appears OU is set up for an opportunity to have one of those magical seasons. And if Landry Jones still makes mistakes, but OU comes out ahead on the scoreboard 14 times, I'll be right next to you in line waiting on my crimson kool aid...is it Saturday yet?
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